After a love affair with the antihero, TV has shifted its focus away from MANLY shows with powerhouse performances of complicated bad dudes toward ensembles and female-led series. (Don't cry for actors, they had their time plenty.) That leaves the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards with two admittedly dry categories in Lead Actor and Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
But that doesn't mean there aren't deserving winners. There are clearly two actors who should walk away an Emmy heavier this year, they're just up against the Emmys' sad track record of regrettable history against an egregiously ignored show and bias against a genre. This will be the year that changes though, hopefully.
LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Who Will Win: Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
I erased Matthew Rhys' name from here because after six seasons of fantastic performances that should fill a trophy case, Emmys still elude everyone on The Americans not named Margo Martindale. History has spoken, and I just don't have much faith that voters will do the right thing this year. That leaves Brown — a favorite pick among award voters — ahead of what's a mediocre field this year. This Is Us has lost its luster, and I still don't understand how anyone from Westworld got nominated for anything this year when Zahn McClarnon (who killed it as Akecheta) was overlooked.
Who Should Win: Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Rhys' role in the FX drama isn't exactly awards bait — much if it is intense staring and keeping everyone around him from losing their sh--, rather than emotional blowups and bombastic "acting" — but it's so subtly and carefully measured that on a deeper look, it's a master class. His scene partner Keri Russell is the most deserving member of The Americans, but she's got a tough field to compete against, making Rhys The Americans' best chance at winning a major award in its final season. If he wins, he'll follow recent winners Kyle Chandler of (Friday Night Lights)and Jon Hamm (Mad Men)as actors who won for their show's final season.
Watch Out For: Jason Bateman, Ozark
Experts have placed Michael Bluth as a longshot, but perhaps they need to rewatch this Breaking Bad-lite drama, because Bateman carried the Netflix thriller on his shoulders. He won't win here (but don't worry, he also has a shot in the directing category), but no other show in this category relied so much on one performer than Ozark. Also watch out for Counterpart's J.K. Simmons, who should be wandering around his living room wondering what he has to do to get an Emmy nomination.
SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Who Will Win: David Harbour, Stranger Things
Sorry, the time to give out acting nods for anyone in Game of Thrones passed a long time ago, so Tyrion and Jaime are out. Patinkin has been great for years on Homeland, but if he didn't win before, he's not going to win for this past season. Fiennes was fine, but Handmaid's belongs to Elisabeth Moss. That's not to say Harbour wins by process of elimination, he has earned this.
Who Should Win: David Harbour, Stranger Things
Harbour's been an amazing character actor for years now (watch him make magic in Season 1 of Manhattan), but all that hard work was to set him up for the role of Chief Hopper. In a sci-fi show where story is king, we don't really pay attention to performances (Noah Schnapp, who could have easily been nominated here, another exception), but how could you not notice Hopper's cabin time with Eleven and not be in awe? Harbour should win.
Watch Out For: Matt Smith, The Crown
The period drama was made for awards season, and Smith was a steady presence. He'll draw love from older Emmy voters, but will it be enough to take down Harbour? Not quite.
The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air Monday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC.